Surf breaks are a classic common resource. They are rival (one surfer on the break reduces the amount of space available for other surfers), and non-excludable (it isn't easy to prevent surfers from paddling out to the break). The problem with common resources is that, because they are non-excludable (open access), they are over-consumed. In this case, there will be too many surfers competing to surf at the best spots.
The solution to the problem of common resources is to somehow convert them from open access to closed access. That is, to make them excludable somehow. And that's what the surf gangs do, by enforcing rules such as 'only locals can surf here'.Now a Massey PhD student is starting a new study on 'surf rage' in New Zealand. The Bay of Plenty Times reports:
The surf at Mount Maunganui will be used as a location to explore surf rage - with locals saying it is real.
Massey University PhD student Jahn Gavala said surf rage, with surfers protecting their local surf and leading to intimidation and physical assault, was prevalent across New Zealand.
"People have ownership of, or mark certain spaces in the surf zones. They form packs of surfers. They use verbal intimidation, physical intimidation and the raging is being physically beaten up - boards broken, cars broken."
Mr Gavala planned to observe surfers at six top surf breaks including Mount Maunganui over summer.
Seems like a good excuse to hang out at the beach and call it research. On a more serious note though, I hope Gavala reads the extensive work of Elinor Ostrom on private solutions to common resource problems, of which surf rage is one example.